For young Yvonne Cecelia, Catherine Awuor and Caroline, Acakoro Football Academy is home. The talented youngsters say they are living their dreams on a daily basis by playing football. Their passion for football runs deep. Having been recruited by the football academy in 2013, the three have had vast experience between them playing in various tournaments and tourneys. One such tournament is the Safaricom Chapa Dimba tournament that is organized and sponsored by Safaricom.
Chapa Dimba is open to both male and female players aged between 16 and 20. Acakoro Football Academy came to within a touching distance of winning it. Last year, the young guns managed to go all the way, against all odds, to the finals before losing out on post-match penalties.
For the young girls at Acakoro Football Academy, the tournament is a chance to showcase their talent. The prizes awarded with regards to the level of progress is an opportunity to earn from their passion.
The Chapa Dimba Tournament is organized in the 8 regions across the country before the national showdown. The regions are Nairobi, Eastern, Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley, Coast, Central and North Eastern. The prizes up for grabs from regional to national level range from Ksh. 100,000 to Ksh. 1,000,000. At the regional level, the winning team walks away with Ksh. 200,000 while the loser of the final gets Ksh. 100,000. At the national finals, the winner gets Ksh. 1,000,000 while the loser gets Ksh. 500,000. In addition to that, every squad member is also given a Tecno smartphone.
It is the passion and the possibility of earning from that passion that motivates the girls to keep improving with a view to the full realization of their potential.
I caught up with some of the players to find out about their journey.
Young Caroline believes Acakoro Football Academy is helping her grow on many levels. Besides having her talent nurtured, the club pays school fees, provides water and affordable food to all the players. She says, “Agakoro is helping us with a lot of things. I have been educated by Agakoro since class six. It is helping many people. We are paid for tuition fees and we also get uniforms. We also get food and water during training. After training, if you want to eat you can just eat and also take a shower.”
Besides taking care of the girls, Acakoro Football Academy also provides an enabling social environment for them to thrive and grow into responsible young adults.
Caroline, Acakoro Football Academy captain notes, “our coaches are also very willing to listen to us. So, in case you cannot talk to your parents or you have anything to share, you can approach them. They are always willing to listen. The coaches are like our parents. They also teach us life skills and girl issues. Acakoro also provides pads for girls. Everything you may lack at home is there. They guide us well and always make sure that they follow up on the progress of a player after they get out of Agakoro. They help you get a team and ensure that it is a good team that pays a good salary.”
Those that have gone through the hands of Acakoro Football Academy have grown to become successful in many ways.
For Catherine, there is no better place she would want to be. The pacy winger is living her dream while having most of her needs met by the football academy. The club also helps her family, in many ways.
She says, “We are six kids at home. All of us are going to school and we all need school fees. Acakoro is helping me because it is paying my school fees. That is like helping my parents with the burden of paying fees. From primary school, Agakoro has been helping me a lot. I usually go to training after school and then, later on, I go for tuition.”
Yvonne believes that motivation comes down to individual dedication. She also emphasizes that there is a need to look up to those who have already made it and are doing well after ending their association with Agakoro.
She says, “we are given the motivation to live well. We all need someone to encourage us and advise us. Those who have been there before help us.”
Caroline believes the training sessions they have been having are rigorous enough for them to walk into any side and handle the challenges straight away.
On her ambitions after Acakoro, she says, “I can say I have big ambitions because Acakoro is helping us a lot. We have managed to get through difficult things and we shall surely go far. We train daily and rest on Thursdays alone during the week. We always wake up very early to train hard. The kind of training we have helps us be light and have the ability to play in any position on the pitch. We also look forward to playing for Harambee Starlets because we are already used to the training.”
Caroline strongly believes playing football has provided the edge she needed over other girls. She says it has helped define her and enabled her to overcome the downsides of growth, subconsciously. She says, “football keeps me busy. It keeps me from bad company and bad influences out there. When you play football, you also let off some stress and you do not have time for bad company. You also embrace positive thinking and become very enlightened. You do not have time to think about bad things. You also get to know a lot of people and many want to be like you because you are playing football.”
The competition for places at the academy has become stiff. Yvonne believes she has to be alive to that reality and train really hard to make sure she makes the team on every match day. She says, “the biggest challenge in the team is the competition for places. Some positions are crowded and you have to work really hard to make sure you get selected during important matches.”
The fact that there are many talented players at the academy makes everyone strive and struggle to give the best for the good of the team.
For many, having to balance studies and gaming time proves a tricky challenge. For Yvonne, her commitment and love for the game drives her to the right places and enables her to make the best decisions as far as studies and team requirements are concerned. On how she manages to balance studies and her commitment to the team, she says, “I keep time and make sure I am at the right place at the right time. I go to school and make sure I am very attentive in class. I concentrate up to 4 pm and then I go to the field to start my training. After the training, I go back home to do some chores then I settle down to read. I manage my team and I make sure I have a timetable which I follow strictly.”
Acakoro Football Academy is doing a great job in making sure that young girls and boys get to showcase their talents and also get rewards for their talents. This helps the young players realize their dreams and also keep them from engaging in activities that may be detrimental to their youth.
In many ways, Acakoro Football Academy is helping to shape the lives of these young players and other talented footballers in Kariobangi. This year the dream is to become the winners of the Chapa Dimba girls tournament. For these girls, the sky is the limit and Acakoro Football Academy is the aeroplane that will help them get there.
Speaking of Chapa Dimba stars, here are two young football stars who have had their lives changed by Chapa Dimba. Meet David Majak, The South Sudanese Refugee Who Was The Regional MVP At The Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom Tournament and When I Went For Practice Sessions At Home, I Would Have To Play With The Boys -Chapa Dimba MVP Mercy Njeri